Lt. Gen. James Vaught, Former 18th chief of staff, dies at 86
The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. James B. Vaught, a former chief of staff of the 18th Airborne Corps and a hero of the Vietnam War, died Friday after his body was found in a pond in Horry County, S.C.
Mr. Vaught, a veteran of three wars, was 86.
Mr. Vaught served as 18th Airborne Corps chief of staff on Fort Bragg in the early 1970s, and military officials have credited him as the founder of the 1st Corps Support Command, which is now known as the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).
"He was a great soldier," said Florence Vaught, his wife. "He was a great American."
Mr. Vaught's body was found Friday afternoon, Horry County coroner Robert Edge said in an Associated Press report.
Mr. Edge could not be reached for comment Sunday night, but he told the news service that Mr. Vaught's family had called authorities after he failed to return home from a visit to the pond. The family thought he had fallen off his pontoon boat into the water.
Mr. Edge said an autopsy indicated that Mr. Vaught died of asphyxia due to drowning and also showed signs of cardiac disease, according to the AP.
Mr. Vaught had made headlines as recently as February 2012, when he confronted Adm. William McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, saying he didn't understand why recent raids by the Navy SEALs -- such as the one to kill Osama bin Laden or to rescue U.S. hostage Jessica Buchanan from Somalia -- were drawing so much media attention. Mr. Vaught argued that the raids should be kept under wraps.
During Mr. Vaught's confrontation at the meeting of the members of the National Defense Industrial Association in Washington, D.C., he was quoted as saying, "Get the hell out of the media."
Mr. Vaught was drafted into the Army in 1945 and served his country in World War II, the Korean War and in Vietnam. His final tour of duty as a lieutenant general came in Korea, where he was commanding officer of American and South Korean forces.
He retired in 1983 after serving with several divisions, including the 82nd Airborne and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Retired Col. Charlie Baker, the author of "Gray Horse Troop: Forever Soldiers," served with Mr. Vaught in South Vietnam. At the time, Mr. Vaught was battalion commander of the 5th Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment.
"He was just an outstanding leader and endeared himself to the soldiers," Mr. Baker said.
Mr. Vaught is credited with playing a significant role in the liberation of Hue city during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
"He should be remembered for being one of the charismatic and proficient battalion commanders in the Vietnam War," said Mr. Baker, 75. "I'm a West Point graduate. No one held a candle to Jim Vaught as a commander of soldiers. He was downward looking, not upward looking.
"As one of our company commanders put it, 'He led by example. He walked with us while looking at the enemy, he carried his own weapon, he got shot at when we were under fire, he dug his own hole and heated his own rations.' "
In 1980, Mr. Vaught was assigned as overall chief planner and strategic director of Operation Eagle Claw, an ill-fated U.S. military mission ordered by President Jimmy Carter. It was an attempt to end the lingering Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 American hostages held captive at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
The raid failed, but Eagle Claw is regarded as one of Delta Force's first missions.
"He's a cousin who did very well," said James Vaught, a distant cousin who lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Retired Lt. Gen. Vaught has been identified as a direct descendant of Francis Marion of "Swamp Fox" fame.
Michael Futch / email@example.com